Today the U.S. House of Representatives voted to prohibit the use of tax dollars to inspect U.S. horse slaughter facilities, reinstating a ban on domestic horse slaughter for the 2014 fiscal year.
Congress regularly included a similar spending prohibition each year from 2005 to 2010, but failed to include the language in the 2012 budget, opening the door for a return of horse slaughter in the U.S., despite broad opposition to the practice. Several applications to open horse slaughter facilities have recently been filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa.
“I am incredibly proud that the omnibus appropriations bill includes a provision banning USDA inspections at horse slaughter plants, effectively prohibiting horse slaughter in the U.S.,” said Rep. Moran.
“These incredible companion animals don’t deserve to be callously slaughtered for human consumption. We fought hard for the past three years to reinstate this ban to prevent slaughter facilities from reopening on American soil. This achievement would not have been possible without the support of numerous federal, state and local officials, animal protection organizations, and dedicated citizens across the country.”
In a national poll it was revealed that 80 percent of American voters are opposed to the slaughter of U.S. horses for human consumption. Horse slaughter is inherently cruel and often erroneously compared to humane euthanasia. The methods used to slaughter horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths, as horses are difficult to stun and often remain conscious during their butchering and dismemberment. Whether slaughter occurs in the U.S. or abroad, these equines suffer incredible abuse even before they arrive at the slaughterhouse, often transported for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water or rest, and in dangerously overcrowded trailers where the animals are often seriously injured or even killed in transit. The majority of horses killed for human consumption are young, healthy animals who could go on to lead productive lives with loving owners. Last year, more than 160,000 American horses were sent to a cruel death by a grisly foreign industry that produces unsafe food for consumers.
While the FY 2014 spending bill protects American communities from the devastating environmental and economic impact of horse slaughter facilities, it does not prohibit the transport of U.S. horses for slaughter across the border to Canada and Mexico. To address this issue, Sens. Landrieu and Graham, and Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), introduced the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094)—bipartisan legislation that would end the current export of American horses for slaughter abroad, and protect the public from consuming toxic horse meat.
A New Mexico hearings officer says the state should deny a wastewater discharge permit for Valley Meat in Roswell, and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources says it will get back to Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin once it decides if horses are livestock.
These state regulatory barriers now face the two companies planning to slaughter horses after the Dec. 13 decision from the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver gave USDA permission to provide equine inspections for the two businesses.
The professional water quality staff in the New Mexico Department of the Environment wanted to give a water discharge permit to Valley Meat, but the hearing officer assigned to hear the case, Felicia Orth, recommended that the application be denied due to the company’s previous environmental violations when it was a cattle slaughterhouse.
Valley’s past history, Orth stated, shows a “willful disregard” of New Mexico’s water quality provisions, a question of law and fact that justifies denial. Her recommendation, along with the 49-page decision, now goes to Ryan Flynn, New Mexico’s Secretary of the Environment.
Blair Dunn, attorney for both Valley Meat and Rains Natural Meats, said the Roswell facility requires either a discharge permit for up to 8,000 gallons a day into underground holding tanks, or else it will have to rely on a pump and haul operation, which apparently does not require a permit.
Dunn has 15 days to file a response to the hearing officer’s decision, and Flynn then has 30 days after that to make his decision.
In Missouri, where top state officials claim to be staying out of regulatory decisions, the state DNR says it has to decide if horses are included in the permit it already issued to Rains to slaughter livestock. Dunn says horses have long been deemed livestock under Missouri’s laws and regulation.
A spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon says the governor’s office is not involved in the decision-making.
Finally, in the ongoing legal action involving possible horse slaughter, the Santa Fe District Court’s family law judge will entertain oral arguments on Monday on whether to continue a restraining order against Valley’s operation until a civil suit brought by Attorney General Gary King plays out.
Both Valley and Rains want to produce horsemeat for human consumption, but only for export. An estimated 158,000 U.S. horses were slaughtered in Mexico and Canada in 2012. No USDA-inspected horse slaughter has occurred in the U.S. since 2007, but the practice could resume under existing USDA budget authority.
Source: Food Safety News by Dan Flynn
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will help determine the fate of a proposed horse slaughter plant later this month, as state officials weigh a permit application that would allow the facility to begin processing equines in Gallatin.
With the deadline for a decision looming, officials with the company, Rains Natural Meats, say they are worried that political pressure will influence the process.
Rains' company representatives say DNR officials have already misinterpreted Missouri regulations in dealing with the horse slaughter issue.
But Gena Terlizzi, a DNR spokeswoman, said the agency has strictly adhered to state procedures. And she noted that Rains initially signaled it would not be slaughtering horses at the facility.
In November, the natural resources agency granted Rains a general operating permit to begin slaughtering livestock, except for horses. "DNR granted the permit they requested," said Terlizzi.
But attorneys for Rains say the state has never excluded horses in granting such permits, and they objected to the exclusion of equines. "Horses have always been considered livestock under Missouri law and code," said Blair Dunn, a New Mexico-based attorney representing Rains. But now, DNR officials have "got it into their heads" to treat horses differently, he said.
He suggested the decision was political. "The resistance in Missouri seems to come from the agency and therefore the governor," Dunn said. The Humane Society of the United States "screams so loud it makes politicians nervous. They don't want to get crosswise with them for fear of being attacked."
Scott Holste, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon, did not respond to questions about whether Nixon supports horse slaughter for human consumption. He referred questions to Terlizzi, the DNR spokeswoman, who said the matter was being handled in accordance with Missouri regulations and with no involvement from the governor's office.
Bruce Wagman, an attorney for Front Range Equine Rescue, a horse advocacy group that has been fighting Rains' efforts to secure a permit, said DNR was right to make the distinction between horses and other livestock. Cows, pigs, and other animals are raised in a regulated environment with the knowledge that they will eventually be consumed by humans.
"The big difference with horses is they're raised as our companion animals, or work animals, or race horses," he said. Over the course of their lives, they're often given "a whole bunch of drugs" without their owners thinking "this is going to be meat," said Wagman.
Rains Natural Meats officials scoffed at this, saying any horses they purchase for slaughter will be tested for drugs, following federal guidelines. "We only work through certified horse buyers, and they will not get their money for those horses until they have a clean test," said David Rains, vice president of the company. And he said it would be "bad business" for him to sell meat with traces of pharmaceuticals.
In November, Rains amended its application and asked for a new permit with no exclusions. The state has until Jan. 26 to rule on the new application.
"If the new general operating permit issued to Rains by DNR in late January contains language prohibiting equine processing, it will be a clear indication to many that Jay Nixon and (Attorney General) Chris Koster are not friends of farmers, ranchers and the agriculture business in Missouri," said Dan Erdel, another attorney representing Rains.
David Rains has said he thinks there will be a significant domestic and foreign market for his company's horse-meat products. "There's going to be a surprising domestic market, and there is an export market," he said in a June interview. "There's some interest on the zoo side, too."
If Rains and the other companies open their doors, it will be the first time horses have been slaughtered for human consumption since 2007. Congress paved the way for the resumption of horse slaughter in 2011, by lifting a ban first enacted in 2006 that barred the Agriculture Department from using federal funds to inspect any meat processing plants that slaughter horses. Plants that are not inspected by the USDA cannot ship meat across state lines, so that 2006 provision effectively ended domestic horse slaughter.
In the wake of Congress' move to lift the ban, the Humane Society and other groups quickly mounted legal challenges and began lobbying Congress for a permanent ban on horse slaughter. A federal court recently lifted an emergency injunction blocking Rains and two other companies - one in Iowa and the other in New Mexico - from processing horses for meat.
Animal-rights groups have argued that slaughtering horses is inhumane and unnecessary. But supporters say slaughter is a good end-of-life option for horses whose owners no longer need or want them. They say the ban led to an increase in abandoned and neglected horses in Missouri and elsewhere.
Rains is also waiting to receive a federal permit from the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service. A spokeswoman for the USDA did not return a message asking about the status of Rains' federal application.
Source: News-Leader by Deirdre Shesgreen